Continuing to relax into the back of the body, we can also explore the world of thought.
Sometimes we feel spacious and curious enough to investigate this slippery, powerful
phenomenon. Sometimes we may want to investigate thought because the mind is so busy.
As we gain skillfulness in this realm, we can see that thoughts are weightless. Yet when thoughts take over, they can be heavy enough to bring people to hurt themselves or others.
Generally, we can continue with relaxing and receiving experience as it comes
through us. Opening to sound, body sensation and the sense of space around us, we
can also allow spaciousness to include thoughts as just one more kind of movement.
It may be helpful sometimes to say very simply in the mind, “thought,” when we notice that thinking has taken over. We can then connect with a more direct part of our experience for a few moments (such as weight or the movement of the breath) or just return to a sense of spaciousness and playfulness.
Letting thoughts pass through, and seeing how often they are just habitual
reactions, we can sense that they are not “ours,” not important, not a problem.
Then we will be able to recognize the helpful and inspired thoughts that do pop up every once in a while: they have a very different quality from the usual.
Occasionally, we can experiment playfully with thought to learn to live wisely
with this tool. Here are some questioning games we can play with:
Investigating: What is a thought? What is it made of? Is image a thought? What about the memory of smell?
Counting: In 60 seconds, how many thoughts pass through the mind? (Sometimes playing this game makes thoughts stop; sometimes we find that there are too many layers of thought to capture...)
Tracing back: When we catch ourselves in the midst of a train of thought, we can attempt to trace it back to the starting point. It is interesting that even when we space out, there is something that records the thoughts, and we can sometimes access that recording. What we often find is that a sound or unpleasant sensation may have knocked us out of the present moment into reverie.
Emotional tone: When particular thoughts recur again and again, we may need to notice what emotion is fueling them. Then we can be with the emotion more directly.
Fantasy: Sometimes when a cycle of thinking repeats many times, we could try doing the opposite of what we think we are supposed to do: we could let the fantasy happen fully, without guilt. Our very resistance (often in the form of shame, guilt, or judgment) is what keeps the fantasy alive.
“Feeling” the thoughts: When the mind is relatively loving and quiet, we could try to sense thoughts in a different way. We could try to “feel” them, in a way that is more subtle than emotional feeling. If thoughts are ducks swimming on the water of the mind, then we try to feel how the legs are moving underneath the water.
Aha!: Notice and feel the quality of the many moments when we suddenly realize we have been lost in thinking. Every once in a while, we can let ourselves drop down into that deeper awareness that is already going on, already at ease with the fact that the thinking mind has spaced out.